Touching the Future of vitual communication networkAs a technology futurist and innovation expert, I’m often asked, “Which technologies do you think will have the biggest impact on humankind over the next decade?”

When answering this question, it’s important to note that many things will not change in the future, including basic human behavior and a host of things like our desire to walk on a beach, take vacations, play games, see our children smile, and many more. But, many things about our life will be literally transformed, way beyond the early days of smart phones, mobile apps, and the cloud we are experiencing today.

For example, we are in the early stages of a mobile, social, virtual, and visual revolution that will transform how we live, work, and play. It is an evolutionary revolution since all disruptive technologies that have already impacted us were there to see ahead of time. Thanks to what I call the Three Digital Accelerators of processing power, digital storage, and digital bandwidth, the disruptive technologies have been evolving exponentially at a measurable clip for decades. And, thanks to the power of exponential change, they have moved into the revolutionary phase.

Looking forward, there are many technologies I’m excited about that are all part of the mobile, social, virtual, and visual revolution. Machine 2 Machine (M2M) communications and the Internet of Things (IoT) will soon impact every business sector and touch all of our lives. Few realize the full significance of this as a way to dramatically increase efficiencies as well as a way to create new products and services.

Another example would be the next breakthrough in additive manufacturing (3D manufacturing), which has already gone beyond rapid prototyping to manufacture finished personalized products from jet engine parts and bicycle frames to titanium jawbones for humans. A new level will be reached when 3D printers can use different types of materials as they print finished products, and this is close at hand now.

Finally, our main personal computer is already our smart phone, and it is getting much smarter. We already tap into supercomputers in the cloud with our smart phone, giving us supercomputers with advanced multimedia capabilities and unlimited storage that fits in our hand. Knowing this, it’s important to understand that computers like desktops, laptops, ultrabooks, and tablets will not disappear in the future. How can I be so sure? A good example would be the fact that mainframes are not obsolete; instead, we are using them differently than we did 10, 20, 30, or even 40 years ago. Most people who have a smart phone and a tablet still use their laptop; they are simply using it for different things and using it less. If desktop and laptop manufacturers continue to innovate instead of compete with smart phone and tablets, they will create a demand and have a future. (Notice that I started the last sentence of with the word “if.”)

What future technologies do you think will have the biggest impact on your industry or profession? What are you doing to prepare for the technologies disruptions before they appear?